Cataloguing, indexing, metadata and discovery

Applying a different set of skills in an all-too familiar context… this site.

Every once in a while you read or hear something that stops you in your tracks. Sometimes it might be you delivering the off-hand comment to someone else that sparks the revolution in their thought processes.

I had just put the final touches on the new site theme. More of an evolution than a revolution by the time I’d finished, but it’s much more suitable for the WordPress block editor, and there’s a stylesheet for the editor as well so that what I see while typing should be almost exactly what you see on screen. It won’t be, because of the different screen sizes, but you get the idea.

And then I read this article on WP Tavern, one of the better WordPress news sites out there. It’s written by someone with years of WP experience, who has designed themes and written code snippets or tutorials I’ve made use of in the past.

In turn, he references other articles1 about the concept of the ‘digital garden’; the idea that your space on the Internet is yours to arrange and populate as you see fit.

That’s when the existential angst hit.

A place for everything

My site has always been about me, and people come here for different reasons. But the page that lists all of my posts is just one long list; paginated, but still just one longs list. When I first started out I created a few categories for posts; then when tags were introduced in WordPress 2.3 (I’d been using WordPress for almost two years by that point, since version 2.0) I converted all of the categories to tags apart from the one with the most posts in it.

And that’s where we are today. One category with lots of posts, each post tagged with at least one tag. Some of those posts use post ‘formats’, introduced in version 3.1. These are the ones that only have galleries, video, twitter embeds or a single image (these posts don’t have word counts, if you care enough to look carefully enough). I used to highlight them differently in a former theme, that didn’t work so well with this one.

That’s all reflected in the tags used on this post. Lots of ways to break up the data into different chunks… but the page that lists all of my posts is still just one long list. Which goes back almost 14 years!

And I still don’t know the best place to put my old fencing coaching handouts online.

New light through old windows

The title of this post comes from one of the Cilip groups I belong to. It used to be called Cataloguing and Indexing, now it’s called Metadata and Discovery (although… they’ve not updated the website yet. Odd).

My mission – should I wish to accept it – is to remember that I’m a member of that group for a reason and to come up with a better way of labelling all of my posts. This could be by creating categories for major areas, such as for communications, information management and personal items, then using tags to subdivide further. Tags can be reused between categories, if required, as a sort-of standard subdivision. It’s allowed – see Dewey.

I could use a plugin to create a series of linked posts, such as when I stood for election or for anything related to the current Kerfuffle. Or I could just that by hand. Or, create another tag…

But once I’ve done that I still need to come up with a way of making my posts ‘discoverable’, assuming we’re veering away from the endless index version. Latest post, indicating the category? Latest posts in each category? What if some of that content isn’t all that recent? What about the Twitter and other ‘asides’, how do I show those? Do I keep the existing ‘sidebar’ widgets so that you can still look for content by year?

And – from a design point of view – is there anything in the block editor that will let me do this easily? Does that mean re-adding all the styles and blocks I’ve spent the last month removing as I didn’t think I’d ever use them?

I like to make life difficult for myself, don’t I?

  1. Joel Hooks, My Blog is a digital garden, not a blog, retrieved 20 April 2020 []